MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Up 403 this week

The General (1926)

Unrated  |   |  Action, Adventure, Comedy  |  24 February 1927 (France)
8.3
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.3/10 from 45,581 users  
Reviews: 226 user | 103 critic

When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single-handedly and straight through enemy lines.

0Check in
0Share...

Watch Now

Free at Internet Archive

WATCH NOW
ON DISC

Interview: Magic Mike

The Magic Mike XXL guys give some relationship advice to a 74-year-old fan.

Watch Now

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 45 titles
created 19 Sep 2013
 
a list of 22 titles
created 22 Dec 2013
 
a list of 45 titles
created 17 Mar 2014
 
a list of 21 titles
created 08 Apr 2014
 
a list of 33 titles
created 7 months ago
 

Related Items

Search for "The General" on Amazon.com

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: The General (1926)

The General (1926) on IMDb 8.3/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of The General.

User Polls

Top 250 #133 | 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Gold Rush (1925)
Adventure | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A prospector goes to the Klondike in search of gold and finds it and more.

Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray
The Navigator (1924)
Action | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Two spoiled rich people find themselves trapped on an empty passenger ship.

Directors: Donald Crisp, Buster Keaton
Stars: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Frederick Vroom
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A spoiled heiress, running away from her family, is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains
Metropolis (1927)
Drama | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich
Ikiru (1952)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A bureaucrat tries to find a meaning in his life after he discovers he has terminal cancer.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Shin'ichi Himori
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin
City Lights (1931)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically.

Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee
M (1931)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut
College (1927)
Comedy | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

To reconcile with his girlfriend, a bookish college student tries to become an athlete.

Directors: James W. Horne, Buster Keaton
Stars: Buster Keaton, Anne Cornwall, Flora Bramley
Modern Times (1936)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman.

Director: Charles Chaplin
Stars: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman
Adventure | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

In a decrepit South American village, men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Glen Cavender ...
Jim Farley ...
Frederick Vroom ...
Charles Henry Smith ...
Annabelle's Father (as Charles Smith)
Frank Barnes ...
Joe Keaton ...
Union General
Mike Donlin ...
Union General
Tom Nawn ...
Union General
Edit

Storyline

Johnnie loves his train ("The General") and Annabelle Lee. When the Civil War begins he is turned down for service because he's more valuable as an engineer. Annabelle thinks it's because he's a coward. Union spies capture The General with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must rescue both his loves. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The tale of a lad, a lass and a locomotive. (Trade paper ad). See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

24 February 1927 (France)  »

Also Known As:

General  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$750,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1982) | (1962) | (2003 alternate) |

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by 'Steven Jay Schneider'. See more »

Goofs

The Texas engine's cab is notably round with rivets, clearly a steel cab found on engines of 1880s to 1890s vintage. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Annabelle's brother: Fort Sumter has been fired upon.
Mr. Lee: Then the war is here.
Annabelle's brother: Yes, dad, and I'm going to be one of the first to enlist.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Harley-Davidson: The American Motorcycle (1993) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Understated Perfection
21 June 2006 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Buster Keaton once said that if he hadn't been a comedian, he might have been a civil engineer. He was not only a mechanical whiz but a spatial genius who devised stunts and gags with the grace of pure physics. It's no wonder he adored trains, the most elegant of machines, and brought them into his movies whenever he could. When one of Keaton's former gag-writers loaned him a book recounting the theft of a locomotive from Georgia by Union raiders during the Civil War, he was immediately fired with enthusiasm to bring this "page of history" to life. His first certainty was that the production had to be "so authentic it hurts." He even insisted on using historically accurate narrow-gauge railroad tracks, which he found, along with appropriate landscapes, near the sleepy town of Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Most importantly, the area had stretches of parallel tracks, which allowed scenes of Buster on his train—agilely scrambling over the cars, balancing on the roof to scan the horizon, chopping wood for the engine while armies pass unnoticed behind him—to be filmed from another train running alongside. Buster, his train, and the camera are all in motion; the wind whips through Buster's hair while smoky pine-covered hills rise and fall around him. These scenes are not only the highlight of the movie but a peak in the history of *moving* pictures, and they put to shame all later back-projection and process shots, models and computer-generated effects. The quality of Keaton's film-making is simply—pun intended—unparalleled. Every shot in The General is clean, fresh and efficiently composed; the action is captured honestly and legibly at all times. The film never tries to be beautiful; its beauty is functional, just like the grave, masculine beauty of the locomotives and railroad bridges and Civil War uniforms.

The General's narrative structure is as strong and uncluttered as its look. Like a train, it stays on track, never meandering for the sake of a laugh or a stunt. All of the gags rise organically from the coherent and straightforward storyline. Adapting the historical incident, Keaton made himself the engineer of the stolen train (Johnnie Gray), rather than one of the raiders. As he saw immediately, The General is one long chase, or rather two chases, structured like the flight of a boomerang. First Johnnie on a borrowed train, the Texas, chases his own stolen train, the General. He manages to steal it back and races it towards his own lines, pursued by the raiders in the Texas, who try to prevent him from carrying their battle plans to his own high command.

The General is not Keaton's funniest film, but here he was going for quality over quantity in laughs. A number of the gags, like the box-car that keeps appearing and disappearing as it switches tracks, have a long build-up for a relatively modest payoff. But the laughter is mingled with a gasp of awe, and the best moments never get stale on repeated viewings. The cannon attached to the back of Buster's train goes off just as the train starts around a curve, so the ball flies straight and hits the raiders' train coming out of the curve. Riding on the cowcatcher, Buster hurls one railroad tie at another lying across the tracks, striking it precisely so that it flips out of the way. A forlorn Buster sits on the crossbar of his train's wheels, so lost in thought he doesn't notice when the train starts to move, carrying him up and down in gentle arcs: stillness in motion.

I agree with author Jim Kline who describes The General as Keaton's most personal film, the one that best captures his unique vision, spirit and personality. In many of his films, Buster starts off as an inept or effete character and develops into a hero. But his competent, ingenious and athletic character in The General, who is also modest, tireless, and underestimated, comes much closer to his real nature. There is a shot in The General of Buster's eye isolated on screen, framed by a hole in a white table-cloth, that has always reminded me of Dziga Vertov's kinoglaz, the "camera-eye." Keaton melds with his camera; there's no distinction between his qualities as a performer and the qualities of his movies. They have the same silence, the same strictness, the same strange blend of gravity and humor.

The General might be the most serious comedy every made, but it's not a tragicomedy. That, as in Chaplin's blending of pathos and low humor, was something people took to immediately. But no one knew what to make of The General. Original reviews accused the film of being dull, pretentious, unoriginal, and unfunny. Even today, people who have heard it acclaimed as one of the greatest movies of all time are sometimes puzzled or disappointed by it on first viewing. The General is challenging because it doesn't flaunt its virtues; like Keaton's concise and economical performance, it holds a great deal in reserve. Take the movie's most famous shot, of a train crashing through a burning bridge, for which Keaton built a real bridge and destroyed a real train. The shot lasts a few seconds in the finished film: he doesn't dwell on it or hype it. Who else in Hollywood would sink money in a spectacular effect and then downplay it? Keaton never forces a response from the audience, never manipulates, never overplays. He doesn't show off his acrobatic skills or his enormous repertoire of comic talents, nor does he play for sympathy. Anything so subtle will always leave some people cold. But for those who can see the expressiveness of Buster's so-called "stone face," who get his peculiar dry humor, who appreciate the rigorous purity and taste he displayed, these virtues are all the more stunning because they are understated. Buster Keaton always has more than he's showing; you can see it in his eyes.


71 of 76 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Can someone explain to me why this is so great? TheLamplightersSerenade
Your Top ten favorite silent films SakowskyBrothers
score/soundtrack mariasarasota
Best version on DVD? haciendacaliente
I like to think I have good taste in movies, but... bulldawg8110
A little anal perhaps godels_sprog
Discuss The General (1926) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?